Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig is not impressed by a Liberal campaign pledge to consider funding a light rail transit expansion to Cambridge if the party is re-elected this June.
The Liberals cemented a $300-million agreement for stage one of LRT construction in March, but the planned extension to Cambridge has yet to be funded.
“I’m not going to support anything, regardless of any of the possible funding, that is not warranted in the city of Cambridge in terms of ridership. And I can tell you right now we don’t have the ridership for LRT. We know that,” said Craig.
Craig said that Cambridge does have the ridership for a GO service extension from Milton. He’s working on a business case with the Region to present to the Ministry of Transportation after the election.
“The big thing for Cambridge right now is GO train extension from Cambridge to Milton, down to Union Station, that’s the issue, and that will do more to raise ridership and do more to have input into warranting an LRT system in the future at some time,” said Craig.
Regional councillor Jim Wideman said Cambridge does need GO train service, but he is pleased that the LRT expansion is on the Liberal radar. He says it’s the first he’s heard about any provincial funding for stage two of the LRT plan.
“[GO service] is really a provincial jurisdiction and we in the region can certainly lobby for it but we don't help to fund that. I recognize that we don't have the ridership at this point [for the LRT to Cambridge] but if we can secure the funding I'm sure the ridership would grow rapidly once the infrastructure is in place,” Wideman said.
Local candidates react
Kathryn McGarry, Liberal candidate for Cambridge, said the potential funding would come from the previously announced $29-billion transportation fund.
“I don’t know the details about how they would get the funding. I do know that unless you have a good, strong representative voice at the table that other jurisdictions may get the money that’s already laid out in there,” McGarry said.
McGarry supports expanding the LRT to Cambridge.
“An express bus does not give them what they want. They want LRT in Cambridge,” she said.
The question of funding has candidates from other parties asking about whether an LRT in Cambridge is worth the money.
“Part of the problem with the LRT is and part of the anxiety about it right across the region is that we're going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build the line and no one's going to use it, so what we have to do is make sure people are going to use it before we actually extend and build this infrastructure,” said Rob Leone, the PC candidate for Cambridge.
“This doesn't promise that we're going to get any money. It basically just says we can buy a ticket for the lottery. I mean it says that we will be eligible to apply, but it doesn't mean that we're going to win,” said Bobbi Stewart, the NDP candidate for Cambridge.